Waikato's future taking further shape
Good progress is being made on shaping a more prosperous and efficient future for Waikato, with business groups and others now invited to apply to be on a joint committee overseeing a new regional spatial plan being developed by the Waikato Mayoral Forum.
“We want to work closely with a wide range of organizations, groups and individuals – including the business sector and other stakeholders – on shaping Waikato’s future,” Waikato Mayoral Forum chair Allan Sanson said today after a forum meeting in Hamilton.
The forum – made up of Waikato mayors and the chair of the regional council – received a series of progress reports on forum work streams and discussed with the Waikato branch of the Property Council its ideas for local government re-organisation.
The Property Council has proposed a single large council for much of the region, while the forum’s approach has been to do a Waikato spatial plan - to identify clearly challenges, opportunities and where Waikato should head in future - before considering any local government re-organisation. The spatial plan will be a 30-year strategy for regional growth and development, taking into account a wide range of economic, environmental, social and cultural issues.
“The forum disagrees with the Property Council’s proposal,” said Mr Sanson, the mayor of Waikato District.
“The forum believes we should concentrate our energy on making efficiency gains now and use the spatial plan, being developed under a clear timeline, to guide any discussions on the shape of local government.
“The forum has stressed it is open to other organisations applying for the non-council positions on a multi-council joint committee being set up to oversee the spatial plan process.
“We want to work with the community on the way ahead and would welcome applications from interested parties. We also encourage people to be part of the discussion going forward as we engage with stakeholders on the spatial plan, due to be ready next year,” said Mr Sanson.
“In the meantime, the forum is cracking on with a range of developments and innovations being undertaken under its auspices. Our work on co-operation between councils in the region has been attracting attention and complimentary remarks nationally.”
The work stream reports to today’s forum meeting noted how a variety of key reports, which will inform the development of a spatial plan, have been completed, while the joint committee to oversee its development is on the way to being finalized. Five non-local government representatives are to sit on the joint committee, including an independent chair. The forum has also contributed $30,000 to the development of a soon-to-be-released Waikato Regional Sports Facility Plan, which will feed into the spatial planning process.
Also, work on aligning bylaws and policies where possible, to help avoid duplicating costs and conflicting methods of operation, has seen the development of a draft generic policy development template and a Waikato significance and engagement policy template. The purpose of the latter is to have a common method for councils to identify the degree of “significance” attached to particular issues requiring decisions, and to provide clarity about how and when communities can expect to be engaged in making such decisions.
An implementation plan for the forum’s recently completed Waikato Economic Development Strategy, known as “Waikato Means Business”, is due by the end of the month. A group of key Waikato business leaders has agreed to participate in the development of the plan.
A business plan for a joint roading centre of excellence involving the region’s councils is nearing completion and a draft multi-party funding agreement is being prepared. Greater co-operation over roading is seen as providing potential for multi-million dollar savings on roading over time.
Meanwhile, following studies under the forum’s waters workstream, Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waipa District councillors have been holding workshops over a proposal to establish a joint council-controlled organisation (CCO) to manage water services in their areas. Decisions on whether to support the development of a business case over this are expected by the end of July. This proposal, again, has potential to generate major cost savings and drive efficiencies. It’s envisaged such a CCO could help other councils with efficiencies as well.
“All these reports show clearly how Waikato councils are working together extremely effectively to provide for the region’s future,” said Mr Sanson.
“It’s vital that we continue to hear the views of regional stakeholders and the wider community as we progress these issues on the region’s behalf.”
Organisations wanting to apply for a seat on the spatial plan joint committee should contact Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion at firstname.lastname@example.org by18 July.
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